Longboarding is an extremely fun sport that you can do just about anywhere. But if you've never ridden a board before, learning how to ride a longboard will take a good amount of practice and likely a few spills.
So what's the first step to learn how to ride a longboard? Wear a helmet and pads if you want to make sure you don't get too beat up. It's possible you won't fall if all you want to do is basic skills, but just in case it doesn't hurt to have safety gear! Check out Board Life's website for safety gear.
Standing on the board
The first thing you'll notice is that if you've never done anything like this, its actually tough to stand in place on the board. There's a few tricks you can do to make this easier. Try wedging something in front of and behind a couple wheels so the board won't roll. This way you can be sure it's not going to take off underneath you. Once you are on the board rock back and forth a bunch of times to get a feel for the trucks. Muscle memory will help you once you start riding so really spend some time with this.
Once you are comfortable with this it's time to take another small step. Put the board parallel next to a hand rail or wall and use the wall to balance. While holding on try to roll forward and backwards. This will give you a feel of the board rolling and help you to realize your balance points.
From here, have a friend hold your hands and walk with you on flat ground. If you start to lose balance simply jump off the board to recover. Learning to hop off when your balance is gone will save you once you are riding on your own.
Pushing a skateboard
Now it's time to take it to the next level and actually ride the board a little bit. Again, work on perfectly flat ground if possible. This way the board won't gain speed and you won't have to bail! Theres lots of ways to push, and the one you choose should feel the most natural. Typically right-handed people will push regular, or with their left foot. The opposite is true for left-handed people. If it feels better to push with the other foot, use that instead! The normal way to push on a board is with your back foot, while your front foot is at about a 70 degree angle from the top of the board. You'll find a sweet spot with practice.
To start out place your back (push) foot on the ground next to the board and get your front foot lined up. Don't worry, it will feel natural with time. Push some pressure on your back foot and lean forwards to get the motion going. Then lift your foot up and stand on the board. That's it, that's how to ride a longboard the first time! But don't stop there.... Now it's time to take this further. Do this several times until you're comfortable. Once you're ready, try not placing the foot on the board, and swing it and push (kick) off the ground on each swing. This will help you gain more and more speed. Start slowly and build up so you don't hurt yourself!
Steering / Carving on a longboard
Now it's time for some real fun! Push a few times to get a little speed. This is where the first part of learning how to ride a longboard comes in handy. To turn on the board all you have to do is lean. It's going to feel a little sketchy at slower speeds, so a little speed will actually make you feel more stable. First try turning towards your frontside (leaning forwards). This will feel more natural as heelside is initially awkward. As you gain a feel for this try steering both ways. With time you'll be able to carve (deep turns) and will have a great time on the road!
But how do I stop, you ask? That's the real question here, very solid skaters will slide on a board. This is very advanced so it's best to start with a foot drag. The other option is when you are ready to try a small hill, make sure theres an uphill outrun and you won't have to cross any streets to get to it. The hill will stop you so you can get more comfortable with speed. The best method however is dragging your foot. Again, you will use your push foot and as you gain speed, slowly lower it down next to you. Keep your weight low so you feel more balanced, and let the foot lightly drag on the ground. Putting more pressure down will help you stop faster. Just don't overdo it or your foot will catch and throw you off-balance.
That's all there is to it!
Like anything in life, start slowly and build up. You wouldn't go down a double black ski run on your first day skiing, so why would you take on a dangerous hill on a skateboard right away? Be safe, practice a lot, and stay within your comfort zone. Longboarding is fun. And learning how to ride a longboard is an exciting new challenge that can lead to a lifetime of fun. Good luck and enjoy!
Here's a great in-depth video that will really help you learn to longboard: